We hope you find our website useful in getting to know who we are and learning more about our study. The University of North Carolina and Penn State are collaborating on a large and exciting study on children’s lives in rural counties. The primary goal of the Family Life Project is to develop a better understanding of how growing up in rural areas might influence the development of children and their families. In particular, we are interested in learning about the each child’s development along with the diversity of their families experiences, culture, community structure and economic circumstances. Currently, much of the research on the struggles children and families face has been focused on urban families. By telling the story of families living in more rural areas, we hope to help create better policies, programs, and supports for children.
The Family Life Project brings together a team of researchers with expertise in education, medicine, psychology, sociology, anthropology, geography and human development.
The purpose of this website is to create awareness around the Family Life Project, whose ultimate goal is to help families and children in the future. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have suggestions to help us better meet this goal through this site. Whether you are a teacher, a principal, a parent or another member of the community it is our hope that this website will continue to connect us in our mutual commitment to the health and well-being of our children.
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This study, which got underway when the children were first born in 2002, is funded through the federal government’s National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD). It is the largest and most comprehensive study of its kind in the world. The project is currently funded through 2013, following the children through 2nd grade..
The Family Life Project began as a five year collaboration between The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Penn State University, funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. We’ve since been refunded to see the children through through 2nd grade. The focus of this large longitudinal study is on children and families who live in rural areas. Existing research provides information on children living in large, urban environments but there is relatively little knowledge on children from smaller cities, towns and rural counties. The overarching goal of the project is to develop an understanding of the unique ways community, employment, family economic resources, family contexts, parent-child relationships and individual differences influence development and competencies in children. The Family Life Project team brings together researchers with expertise in education, medicine, psychology, sociology, anthropology, geography and human development. The hope is that the data we collect will support children and families in the future by helping to create programs which promote school readiness, healthy families and other initiatives to foster family and child well being.
The Family Life Project has been organized into two phases. The first phase involved an in-depth appraisal of community characteristics, which affect the lives of children and their families. We also conducted intensive interviews and observations with 72 families distributed equally across Wayne, Wilson and Sampson counties in North Carolina, and Blair, Cambria and Huntingdon counties in Pennsylvania. These counties were chosen because their residents live in regions ranging from small cities to remote rural areas. This phase of the project began in November 2002.
We’re currently in the second phase of the project, where we’re seeing 700 families in the same three rural counties in North Carolina and 400 families in the same three rural counties in Pennsylvania. Families participate in a series of home visits, childcare visits and phone calls throughout the child's early life. During the home visits, caregivers are interviewed, observed in their homes, and asked to engage in activities such as playing and reading with their children. Childcare and School visits include interviewing the caregiver and observing the child in his or her childcare setting. Regular contact is made by phone to document important changes in family life.
To date, the Family Life Project has been a huge success in that we’ve collected very valuable and solid data. In addition, home visitors and families alike enjoy the home visits. Our families and children have been amazing and we are grateful for their continued participation.
Also, community members have contributed their knowledge and expertise during every phase of the project thus far and it is our hope that they will continue to do so, as we wholly recognize that input and support from the community is integral to the success of our study.